Post 81: March 1994 – The Cumberland Way – in search of the Cumberland sausage, aged 42
After completing The North of England Way, I began looking for another route to devise and write about, this was to be On Foot from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall: Hadrian’s Way. However, I would not be ready to walk it in its entirety until the 1996; therefore I needed a walk for 1994. The 80 miles long Cumberland Way looked particularly attractive, the route going through the central mountainous Lakeland region of the old County of Cumberland, starting at Ravenglass and finishing at Appleby. Whereas mountaineer Chris Bonnington might go to the Himalayas in search of the Yeti, we were going to Cumbria in search of the Cumberland Sausage. Did it still exist in its original form when Cumberland was still a County, did it taste as good as rumoured, is it as long as reported, is it still readily available? Such questions could only be answered by mounting an expedition to the heart of Lakeland.
The prospect of Cumberland sausages was too much for Dan to resist and he immediately signed up for the walk. Alf was desperate to experience Lakeland rain again and so signed up soon afterwards. Alan was also tempted by the prospects of mountain walking and joined the group. That was enough. If you have more than four walkers you become a rambling club; I don’t enjoy seeing the countryside in a crowd. Therefore, I will not generally walk with more than three others.
26 March 1994
Alf and myself arrived at Barrow station where we met Dan and Alan. In bright sunshine, the two-carriage train took us past Morecambe Bay Sands and Grange Sands to the west and the Lakeland fells to the north-east. We arrived at Ravenglass at 3.45pm, dropping our rucksacks off at a large hotel, our accommodation for the night. We were somewhat surprised, as we pointed out there were some missing light bulbs, a kettle that did not work, a bed not made, and a room not cleaned, the landlady attending said, ‘it’s a bit like Faulty Towers.’
In the evening, after a three mile walk to Hooker Crag to watch the sunset, we went to the Ratty Arms to locate and eat our first Cumberland sausage of the holiday.
27 March 1994: Day 1 – Ravenglass to Wastwater Youth Hostel – 11¾ miles
On a dry morning, we left the hotel at 10.15am. Leaving Ravenglass beach, we soon reached Muncaster Mill, but were a little disappointed to find it closed. The cornmill had been renovated so that the waterwheel worked again. The weather deteriorated as we arrived at 19th-century Irton Church of St Paul, where, rather than get wet, we decided to have a look around. The vicar and wife made us feel very welcome with a guided tour of the church, in particular showing us the magnificent stained glass windows. They even provided us with coffee and biscuits, such is the wonderful hospitality encountered in these isolated locations.
We arrived at Wastwater Youth Hostel at 3.45pm.
This lovely half-timbered house, dating from 1829, has been carefully refurbished in period style, including oak panelling, and retains many original features. Standing in its own grounds sloping down to the shores of Wastwater, England’s deepest lake at 257 feet, it offers a high standard of accommodation in a breathtaking location. If it was a hotel we would probably have had to pay at least £50 per night, as a youth hostel it was less than £8 a night. Don’t tell anyone as it might then get too busy.
Whilst waiting for the hostel to fully open, we had tea and biscuits in the kitchen. Later on in the evening we had a substantial meal of oxtail soup, turkey roast followed by apple crumble, which, combined with an open fire, made me doze.
Next morning we went in search of Cumberland sausages and were lucky enough to locate some at breakfast, along with black pudding, tomatoes, bacon, eggs, and potato waffles. We were now ready to tackle the Black Sail Pass.